Steel, Blood and Fire is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a fantasy, military, and history as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I was, in part, inspired by Glenn Cook’s Black Company series, along with the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. So much so that I wanted to try my own hand at it.
I found Vykers to be a very well written and in depth character. What was your inspiration for his emotional turmoil through the story?
Here, I think I was most inspired by Odysseus, and his long journey home from Troy. Vykers has a lot of Odysseus’ arrogance — and deadly competence, as well.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
That’s a tough one! Of course Vykers is fun to write. But so is Rem, the actor. That character allowed me to poke fun at the acting profession and relive a few of my own foibles. Then there is Spirk, the idiot. I have a special place in my heart for characters who are not quite up-to-speed, for want of a better term. He also provides a lot of the story’s comic relief. Finally, Aoife was enjoyable for me, because she reminds me of my sisters and wife, to some degree. I really liked looking at the story through her Earth Mother’s eyes.
I understand that you’re also an actor and stand-up comedian. How have those experiences helped you write your stories?
I think those things definitely shape my voice as a writer, the way I hear dialogue, and indulge in opportunities to shameless nonsense. But being an actor has also given me a fair amount of experience wielding a long sword, which comes in handy when writing fight scenes.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
Actually, you have (kindly) review the first book in an existing four-book series. Steel, Blood & Fire is followed by As Flies to Wanton Boys, Corpse Cold, and, most recently, The Abject God. I am currently working on the series finale, The End of All Things, which I expect will to release in late 2018.
On the march, around the campfire, and in the taverns, they tell incredible stories about Tarmun Vykers, the Reaper – how he’s never been cut in battle, how he once defeated hundreds of men by himself, how he exterminated an entire people over an insult. These stories make Vykers seem like a god, but he is a man, an arrogant, ruthless and bloodthirsty man. For all that, he may be the only thing standing between the human race and utter annihilation at the hands of the mad wizard who calls himself the End-of-All-Things. Against this backdrop, smaller, lesser folks struggle to fulfill their own destinies, folks like Aoife, burdened with a secret so dark she is driven to do the unimaginable and seek an alliance with fey powers no mortal has ever encountered.
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In Apollo’s Raven we follow a Celtic princess Catrin and her star-crossed Roman lover Marcellus on opposing sides of a fierce battle. What was your inspiration for the setup to this exciting series?
Since childhood, I’ve been an avid reader of mythology and legends that portrayed females as goddesses, warriors, and cunning sorceresses. I’ve always been drawn to bigger than life epic heroes and heroines who steered the destiny of their people. In my travels to London, I was struck by the statue of Boudica and her daughters riding in a chariot near the Thames River. I discovered that she was a celebrated warrior queen who united the Britons in a revolt against the Romans, almost throwing them out of Britannia in 61 AD. As I did more research, I became intrigued that Celtic women were considered as equals in this war-like society. The Roman historian Dio Cassius describes Boudica as having the mystical powers of a Druid. Other Roman historians wrote of Celtic women’s ferocity as they fought alongside their husbands.
The heroine Catrin is based on historical and legendary accounts of Celtic warrior queens such as Boudica in Britannia where women were held in higher esteem and could serve as warriors and rulers. The storyline of star-crossed lovers in Apollo’s Raven series is inspired by the legacy of Cleopatra and Mark Antony but with a Celtic twist. Archaeological evidence and sparse historical accounts suggest that Rome heavily influenced the politics of southeast Britannia prior to Claudius’s invasion in 43 AD—a political situation similar to Cleopatra’s Egyptian kingdom. I was also drawn to the tragedy of Mark Antony and his son, Iullus Antonius, whose downfalls were associated with powerful women. Their infamy cast a shadow on Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony, which will be further explored in the Apollo’s Raven series.
Your story is able to portray ancient Roman life in a believable yet entertaining way. What kind of research did you do to make sure you got everything right?
I did extensive research on the Roman life by reading books, journal articles, and blog posts by historians and archaeologists. Of particular interest are the written accounts by Julius Caesar which he sent to the Roman Senate as propaganda to support his military expeditions in Gaul and Britannia. I’ve also explored several Roman archaeological sites in Britain and France where scenes from the Apollo’s Raven series take place. Locations include Dover, Bath, Fishbourne Roman Palace, Colchester and Hadrian’s Wall in England, and Lyon in France.
As I researched Roman historical events and culture, I also tried to understand their mindsight. In Rome, the male head, the paterfamilias, had complete control over his family—wife, children, and slaves. If they disobeyed him, he had the power of life and death over them. Women were held in higher esteem in Celtic societies which is in sharp contrast with the paternalistic, empire-building Romans.
Catrin is a princess, yet she is not fragile. She’s tough and trains to be as strong as her sister. What themes did you want to capture while creating Catrin’s character?
It is my hope that modern women can draw on the rich traditions of the ancient Celtic civilization where females owned property and could become rulers and Druids. These women fought, hunted, rode horses and used weapons, just like the men, to protect their homeland.
Deeper themes that will be explored in the Apollo’s Raven series as Catrin matures and faces new challenges on her journey of becoming a warrior queen are as follows:
- Coming of Age
- Power to change destiny
- Sacrifice and love
- Corruption of power
- Quest for redemption
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am in the process of finishing Book 2: Empire’s Anvil, which should be available by the summer of 2018. The epic tale continues when King Amren accuses Catrin of treason for abetting her Roman lover, Marcellus. She must prove her loyalty to her father and people by forsaking all men and defending her kingdom even to death. Forged as a fierce warrior, she begins a quest to redeem herself and to break the curse that foretells her father’s kingdom will be destroyed. Yet, when she is reunites with Marcellus, she must face her greatest challenger that could destroy her life, freedom, and humanity.
The world is in turmoil. Celtic kings hand-picked by Rome to rule are fighting each other for power. King Amren’s former queen, a powerful Druid, has cast a curse that foretells Blood Wolf and the Raven will rise and destroy him.
King Amren reveals to his daughter, Princess Catrin, the grim prophesy that his former queen pronounced at her execution for treason to him.
The gods demand the scales be balanced for the life you take. If you deny my soul’s journey to the Otherworld by beheading me, I curse you to do the same as mine. I prophesize your future queen will beget a daughter who will rise as a Raven and join your son, Blood Wolf, and a mighty empire to overtake your kingdom and to execute my curse.
Catrin is trained as a warrior and discovers she is the Raven and must find a way to block the curse of the evil former queen. Torn between her forbidden love for her father’s enemy–Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony–and her loyalty to her people, she must summon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that awaits her.
Will Catrin overcome and eradicate the ancient curse? Will she be able to embrace her forbidden love with Marcellus? Will she cease the war between Blood Wolf and King Amren? Will she save Ancient Britannia?
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The Mystery of St. Arondight’s tells the story of six teenagers on a mysterious supernatural quest across Europe. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
Like my characters I was a teenager when I had my first taste of field archaeology. It was exciting, that feeling that you never quite knew what was waiting under the ground for you. It didn’t seem to matter how many of the experienced archaeologists on the site told me that treasure is unlikely, I firmly believed that every shovel full of dirt could hold some priceless artefact of great importance. Now, having been a professional archaeologist for ten years I have learned that not every excavated site uncovers great historical mysteries. In fact the closest I have ever come to treasure is five scattered Roman Denarii, probably from a lost purse. But I still have that belief that something important could be hiding just under my feet.
History itself consists of so many unanswered questions, so many what ifs, so many intangible stories. Folk law suggests the presence of ghosts at sites of violence, or in places they knew when alive. Legends tell of strange women living in trees, lakes or isolated ruins, of heroes who transcend time. There are so many mysteries out there to solve, who is to say that the conclusions must always be rational. Some stories tell of tangible artefacts, a philosopher’s stone, a sacred cup or a powerful sword. Legends give us all the chance to daydream … What might happen if one day I excavate a sword of Arthurian date from a waterlogged deposit. Could the legends be true?
The story has a host of young characters all with their own unique personalities. What themes did you want to capture while creating your characters?
With my characters I aimed to create firstly a group with a shared interest, archaeology, but to give them their own skills, knowledge and personality. The intention was to balance them so that no one character held all the aces and there was essentially no go-to hero of the piece.
I wanted to make sure that the girls were just as capable as the boys. When I was growing up I spent most of my time wanting to be one of the lads. So called ‘girly’ activities did not interest me and I felt that as a teenager there were no characters in my world, with perhaps the exception of ‘George’ from Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’, that represented me as a perpetually bruised, knee skinned tomboy, hanging out with the boys, fencing with sticks and pretending that my bicycle was a motorbike. What I wanted to do here was to create characters that represented my sixteen year old self. The girly side, the tomboy side and the downright laddish part of me. Alongside my own traits I have borrowed elements of personality from the many wild, passionate, and possibly crazy archaeologists of all ages and genders, that I have met whilst digging holes all over the country. I had to try and capture some of that combination of crude humour, intelligence and boundless enthusiasm, encountered on all archaeological sites.
The action scenes and references to historical sites was well developed. Was there anything you pulled from you own life and used in this novel?
I first started fencing at university and was lucky enough to fence for my university, even becoming captain of the team and later the club. Fencing is a lot like chess, but played at the speed of light and with significantly bigger bruises, but you get a real appreciation that timing and intelligence are every bit as important as strength and skill. In writing the sword fights in St. Arondight’s, I wanted to put across some of my own experience as a fencer – the noises, the exertion required and the clear presence of mind required to make a successful attack.
Having lived in the UK all my life, I have visited many of the locations from the book, although I do admit that for a few of them I may have used a little creative licence – getting to the “beach” below the White Cliffs of Dover is much more difficult than Sarah and Jerry found it and I certainly wouldn’t advise trying it!
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on the sequel to The Mystery of St. Arondight’s, following the same characters on their next archaeological adventure. I’m hoping it will be available March/ April 2018 although the first draft is playing hardball right now, and it’s fair to say that working full time as an archaeologist, active fencer and motorcycle enthusiast does take up some writing time. So I’m afraid the date is tentative and it may be a little later.
Camping at ruined abbey at the end of the summer holidays, six teenage archaeologists find themselves witness to a violent haunting and discover a secret crypt below the abbey.
The discoveries they make set them on an epic quest across the country. In a race against an unhinged academic and armed with only their honour, knowledge and swordsmanship the group will have to trust one another and work together, as reality and mythology merge and the quest for an artefact of legend becomes a fight for survival.
Told in a unique blend of first and third person narration, The Mystery of St. Arondight’s follows Suzannah Jones, Melody Knight, Sarah Heddon, Claire Scott, Jerry Llewellen and Símon James Matherson in their first archaeological adventure.
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Move over, Homer. These aren’t your gods and goddesses anymore. Angelina Kerner puts a whole new spin on the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods in her book Deity’s Soulmate. Our usual suspects are there: Athena, Zeus, Hera, Hermes, Hades and others. We’re introduced to a new structure of the world thanks to the first person perspective of a young goddess, Gardenia. At first, we’re not sure who she is as she leads us through the universes to the Milky Way Galaxy. She comes across humanity in their bloody splendor immediately. This shatters what she has been taught about humans. Not all is what she has been told. It’s time for Gardenia to learn the real way of the world. She has a place in her family’s pantheon, but will she be twisted around the thread of a Fate first? This entertaining story about gods, goddesses, dragons and the creation of worlds is the first installment in what is sure to be an amazing trilogy.
While most of us have perceptions about the gods and goddesses from ancient Greece and Rome, seeing Hera in a black suit with white stilettos is definitely an interesting image. Kerner builds her world in a fascinating way. Yes, there have been more ‘modern’ interpretations of such heavenly beings before, but the way Kerner does it makes the reader feel like this is how they have always been. Her description on the creation of galaxies and worlds, giving each god and goddess an entire mini universe to be responsible for is an interesting take on the creation myth. She does not deny the science of a world being born yet the way she peppers that in with the mystical ability of the gods and goddesses seems natural.
This book is more than just what the gods and goddesses get up to in their spare time. Gardenia is a very new, very young goddess. She is scorned by the majority of her family and she strives to show them she is not someone to be taunted. However in the beginning she is just that: young. Barely alive for eighteen years, which is less than a wink for immortal beings; she is taken advantage of and manipulated by the Fates. Even on the brink of death she does not give in. She is a strong, fiercely independent young lady. She realizes she’s been dealt a bad hand at life and is determined to make more out of it than anyone expects. To this end, she journeys. She travels across galaxies in her search for teachers older than her family: dragons. These mystical beings that hold the power of creation yet can’t be bothered with using it.
A coming of age story is wrapped up inside a mystical journey. Not only is Gardenia searching for herself, she is striving to rise above the path that has been laid out for her. The eternal question on whether or not someone can change their ‘fate’ is addressed in this delightful read. Deity’s Soulmate by Angelina Kerner sports beautiful illustrations and a fantastic story to match. Will Gardenia change her future? Or will she be a pawn of the Fates? Only time will tell.
Pages: 180 | ASIN: B06Y1GCCF5
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The Sky Throne is a tale set in Ancient Greece and follows young Zeus who finds himself entangled in a conflict that reaches the slopes of Mount Olympus itself. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Many myths feature deities as fully grown. Since I’m a young adult author, I wanted to re-imagine them as adolescents. I wanted to try to use the myths as a base from which to pull, and then use their grown personalities to drill down and perhaps find out how they came to be that way.
The story has roots in the Greek mythology. Do you read books from that genre? What were some books that you think influenced The Sky Throne?
I’ve read Ovid’s Metamorphoses, The Odyssey, The Illiad, The Aeneid. I’ve also read some young adult books that feature Greek deities, or at the very least, their offspring. Such titles include Tera Lynn Childs’ Oh. My. Gods. and Sweet Venom, Jennifer Estep’s Touch of Frost, and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.
I enjoyed seeing these mythological gods as young angst filled teens. I found Zeus to be a very well written and in depth character. What was your inspiration for his emotional turmoil through the story?
Once I set Zeus on his path, I just tried to get as far inside his head as I could. I did find some inspiration from various bits of movies, though no single movie stands out.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will that be published?
I am currently writing book 2 of The Sky Throne, tentatively called The High Court. It will be released in spring of 2018.
“When the family of young Zeus is attacked by Hyperion, Zeus’s mother is knocked unconscious and his best friend is left for dead. Stacking epic insult upon fatal injury, Zeus discovers the woman who raised him is not his biological mother. But to ensure her safety while she recovers, a heavyhearted Zeus leaves her behind to seek answers at Mount Olympus Preparatory Academia. Zeus embarks on a quest to discover who ordered the attack on his home, avenge the death of his friend, and find his birth mother. When some of his new schoolmates vanish, Zeus’s quest is turned upside down, and the only way to make things right is to access the power of the Sky Throne, confront a most dangerous enemy, and take his life back. On his way to becoming king of the Greek gods, Zeus will learn to seize power, neutralize his enemies, and fall in love.”
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Return to Babylon is the fifth installment of the Orfeo saga and begins with Orfeo and Clarice returning from the New World and their battle with the Spartans to settle into a somewhat peaceful life in Pylos. However with the battles still fresh in their mind and the nightmares still haunting their sleep, Orfeo knew evil would eventually reappear- it was just a matter of when and where. An assassination attempt on Orfeo’s life leads him to leave with Clarice to venture to the city of Mesopotamia in hopes they will keep their beloved city of Pylos safe.
Meanwhile, kings begin to drop like flies with the kingdom of Mursillius the Hittite becoming the first to fall. Zinaida wants vengeance upon the coalition who put her on the throne and sends spies to find Zurga. What price will be paid for those who fight for justice and freedom?
Return to Babylon, written by Murray Lee Eiland Jr, continues the adventures of Orfeo who begins the heroic tale in the city of Pylos. Prepare for an action-packed story line that explores the dynamics between different kingdoms and the blood thirst for those who want to save the world.
Assassination attempts and secret spies lead the characters to question whether the events taking place are purely coincidental or is there a more sinister evil at work. As the reader explores the different kingdoms, you soon learn who is trustworthy and who hides behind closed doors, plotting their evil revenge. Networks of spies will reveal information that will mean our favourite characters will have to risk it all for the price of glory.
Murray Lee Eiland Jr. has an impeccable flair to paint the scenes of his story with such conviction that the reader will feel emotionally involved with the main characters and their harrowing tales. At times the novel has moments of historical accountability, giving readers a front row seat into the secrecy of life and lies within kingdoms. Once you add in the brave and fierce heroes, Return to Babylon, has an epic story line that will leave you on the edge of your seat and eager to read all installments. My favourite character was Cyrus, a young and eager apprentice who begins to learn the ins and outs of spy craft. I particularly enjoyed the character development and surprise turns that each character entails throughout the story.
This book in the series delves deeper into the world of mystery, intrigue and espionage. I particular like how Murray Lee Eiland Jr adds a light-hearted touch to scenes in order to create a memorable and powerful story line. It is a cool reminder that some of our biggest threats are being spun together behind the closed doors within the most powerful people in the city.
Return to Babylon is brilliantly written. I would recommend this novel for anyone who loves an action-packed novel filled with twists and turns that will leave you on the edge of your seat, and eager for more!
Pages: 217 | ASIN: B01KEDH2CG
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The Sky Throne, by Chris Ledbetter, is a tale set in Ancient Greece. Zeus, a youthful prankster, finds himself entangled in a conflict that reaches the slopes of Mount Olympus itself. Living a life as an unknown, Zeus’s world changes entirely with the violent attack by an Elder deity, Hyperion. Zeus, seeking an answer for this attack, finds himself at Mount Olympus Preparatory Academia. He finds sanctuary and a temporary reprieve from the sorrow that haunts him, but trouble still follows him. Students and faculty begin to vanish from Olympus, which leaves Zeus and his peers to solve the mystery.
Ledbetter takes the best pieces of contemporary YA and gives them their own mythological flare. The academia of Harry Potter becomes the independent schools of the Mediterranean and Aegean. The survival of The Hunger Games is embodied by Zeus’s ingenuity throughout the story. Even tones of Red Rising can be felt in the opening pages of the very humble beginnings of a character we have known about for thousands of years. The breadth of the world is very thorough, and will please any Grecophile. Ledbetter covers everything from Crete to Tartarus, and all that lies in between.
These very familiar characters from mythology are made a new by being “made young” and formed into literal student roles. The twist on these old figures was one of the reasons why I kept turning the page. This, and the mystery of Zeus’s parentage, kept me enthralled with the character; especially since Zeus is a character that not only grows and changes throughout the book, but becomes endeared to the reader. For example, he consistently struggles with how to flirt with girls!
The actual pacing itself is done quite well. Within the first dozen pages, the reader feels the very real consequences of violence and aggression and the plot only gathers speed from there. It especially begins to escalate when the real threat against Olympus Prep arises and Zeus begins to show the true core of his character, to the delight of the reader.
If anything negative can be said against the plot and world building of the book itself, I would say that Ledbetter’s technical skill could use a bit of Olympus grace. While reading, I found some of the sentences awkward, while others were quite unnecessary based on context. This forced me out of the story. Beyond that, I found the dialogue to be inconsistent along the lines of pushing melodrama or self-deprecating humor. This is not to disregard the appreciation I had for his presentation of different cultures that actually did have their own way of speaking.
All of this taken into account, the reader of YA literature will not be disappointed. Following in the footsteps of Rick Riordan, yet also striking out on his own when his path diverges, is not a feat to be taken lightly. Ledbetter achieves this with brilliant originality and a story uniquely his own.
Pages: 324 | ASIN: B06W5LXJFN
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The Wanderer’s Last Journey opens to Orfeo being kidnapped by mysterious strangers and heroes from all over the Aegean join forces in the quest to find the lost prince. What excited you the most to write this 4th book in the Orfeo saga?
This book was the one that involved a trip to the New World. There have been many theories about Mediterranean contact with the New world, and I knew that in some ways the plot would be “far out.” Interestingly, there have been traces of cocaine found in ancient Egyptian mummies, so I had a plausible reason for travel. I did not want to fall into the well worn idea that any contact with the New World would be from a more advanced “European” culture. I think I portrayed the contact as one involving matched but very different cultures. In fact, Orfeo was taken in order to be a symbol that could be manipulated by extremely savvy leaders.
The Wanderer’s Last Journey has all the makings of a classic fantasy epic, as the rich and evocative world is as intriguing as it is intricate. Did you set out to create such a detailed world or did it happen organically?
I would like to say that I planned it all. In reality the Orfeo Saga happened book by book for the first few, and then I had an idea of a wider sweep later on. This novel marks the beginning of a larger plan. At the end of the day it is all about writing about interesting periods in history. What could be more interesting than a very early journey to the New World? What if that culture could be just as treacherous and manipulative as any in the Mediterranean? Of course I had fun with this part of the book. The second part of the book, dealing with Sparta, also has a bit of humor. However, I explored how dangerous a defeated people can be. Sparta will of course emerge during the Classical period as a very serious threat to Athens. More to the point Sparta will also emerge as a threat in my (fictional) Bronze Age Orfeo Saga. I have many more books planned.
The Iliad seems to be a source of inspiration for this book and your love of this period clearly shows. What is it about Greek/Roman mythology that you find interesting?
I read a huge amount of Greek and Roman mythology when I was younger. I had to take Latin in school and I always found myself wanting to read at a much higher level than my Latin ability would allow. I finally decided on a career in psychiatry. At the time Greek and Roman myths were mined for their insights into human nature. They express rather unvarnished characters (good and bad, sometimes in the same character). I was really interested in motivations, and of course the biggest motivation of all. There is phrase “collective unconscious” that coneys something like “cultural memory.” I am not sure that anything like that exists as an entity, but as a concept there is something to that. People collectively wanted to move their culture and civilization on to other things. I am not so silly as to think that everything in society just keeps on getting better, but there is something in that argument!
Where does the story go in book 5 of the Orfeo saga?
There is unfinished business in Babylon. Zinaida has been put on the throne in Orfeo 2, and now she feels like she should exert the power of Babylon to conquer her neighbors. Orfeo 2 dealt with Babylon using military force. This novel introduces a new character called Cyrus. He is extremely resourceful and takes up the identity of a merchant. He is a character that I will use in some future novels. I like the fact that he is not just simply a warrior or even a Wanderer. He becomes something entirely different.
“A Powerless Prisoner: A Captive God
No one is sure when the New World deity Quetzalcoatl was first worshipped. The god-man can be portrayed as a feathered serpent – and also associated with a bright green bird of the same name – but he was worshipped in a variety of ways by various cultures. Some versions of the myth state that he was a man with light hair, beard, blue eyes, and light skin. After helping humankind, he was said to have returned to his home, promising to return. It is not surprising that he has been identified as a Viking by some historians (and as an extraterrestrial by more adventuresome scholars). The Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II is reputed to have initially believed that when Hernán Cortés appeared in 1519 Quetzalcoatl had returned.
Here Orfeo has been kidnapped by a New World tribe. They plan keep him as a prisoner while presenting him to a subjugated populace as a god. He has no desire to live his life in a gilded cage. His wife, Clarice, his aging mentor, Zurga, and the jack of all trades, Daryush, must cross the ocean to save their friend. They soon find they are involved in a civil war between the Nastases and Ixtlans. It will take all their cunning to rescue Orfeo and get back alive. Back at home a war is brewing between Sparta and Pylos. This time Zurga is not there to keep the peace.”
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The Chimaera Regiment follows Hector as he sets off on a world altering journey. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
The first idea that I incorporated into this story, or what eventually became this story, was the question, “What if someone compelled a worldwide society, perhaps not far into our future, back to a level of technology and culture comparable to the very first tribal communities?” Of course, by the time I wrote the book, I had decided to aim for something closer to the late Bronze or early Iron Age than the Stone Age, and the whole question became part of the world-building rather than a story I tell during the book.
The character of Hector started to develop as I began to catalogue ideas and lay out a basic plan of the plot. Up to that point, I had never completed anything longer than a short story (in spite of my best efforts), so I wanted to make it as easy as possible for myself to get all the way through a novel. To that end, I took that advice so frequently bandied about, “Write what you know,” and decided to make the hero someone a little younger than I was at the time.
The first draft of the novel was quite a bit shorter than it is now, and it ended up collecting dust in a box for a few years. (I prefer to write first drafts by hand.) Around the time a movie was released with, by total coincidence, my working title, I decided to go back to it and see what I could make of it. By that point, I had gotten a college degree and learned enough to know that the first draft had a good core, but the implementation was all wrong. Over the next couple of years, I went through the entire book and rewrote it, this time trying to make sure all the pieces aligned. It was at this point that I incorporated mythology into the story and titled it The Chimaera Regiment.
That initial idea is still in there, and you can see the edges of it as the backstory develops through this book, but I’m going to explore that question more closely in future books.
I think the story has roots in mythology. Do you read books from that genre? What were some books that you think influenced The Chimaera Regiment?
It does, and I do. My bachelor’s degree is focused on the Classics, which some may have heard called Classical Studies or (my favorite) Classical Philology, so I learned Latin and ancient Greek and I read a lot of Greco-Roman mythology, both in English and in the original languages. (My knowledge of Norse mythology is pretty limited, I’ve barely touched Egyptian mythology, and I’m as clueless as the next guy when it comes to anything else.)
For The Chimaera Regiment in particular, I looked to a lot of different sources for inspiration. What I wanted, perhaps most of all, was to craft a story that people would enjoy regardless of their educational background, but I also wanted to include a lot of “Easter eggs” for people with the same knowledge-base I have. So on the surface you have Hector on his quest to save the world from the Chimaera Regiment, and underneath that, I’m incorporating themes and plotlines from the myth of Bellerophon. Bellerophon, of course, was the hero that killed the Chimaera in the Greek mythos. Most of that particular tale comes to us from the writings of Apollodorus and one section of Homer’s Iliad, but there are a lot of minor references in other works, too.
While the myth of Bellerophon and the Chimaera is interwoven with the main plot, I also included references to other myths, both significant and minor, throughout. The vast majority of those can be found in Homer (either the Iliad or the Odyssey), Vergil (the Aeneid), or Ovid (the Metamorphoses), but to be honest, I enjoyed the process of hiding those references so much that I’m not completely sure I could tell you all of them at this point!
I found the characters in this story to be complex and engaging. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?
Especially when it came to Hector, whom we follow more closely than anyone else, I wanted something realistic. I find a lot of “coming of age” hero stories jump too quickly from “callow youth” to “great warrior” without much reason for it. I didn’t want my readers to ask, “Wait, why can he do that? How come he’s not daunted by this fight or fazed by this tragedy? When did he have time to learn strategy?” Incorporating that development was important to me.
When it came to the other characters, it was a matter of establishing ideals for each of them—how they saw the world, how they expected life to go—and then challenging those ideals with reality. Sometimes reality is better than they thought, but usually, it’s worse; either way, they have to adjust to deal with that. It’s a process not altogether different from the way we deal with change in our own lives.
I find a problem in a well written stories in that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Is there a second book planned?
There is a second book planned (and, very roughly, a third). The sequel is titled The Aegipan Revolution and picks up, not where the main story of The Chimaera Regiment leaves off, but rather where our epilogue leaves off, with the child learning this epic tale from his history.
I’m in the midst of writing The Aegipan Revolution, and I’ve passed the halfway point, but there is still a lot left to tell. After that, I’ll need to edit it thoroughly (though hopefully not as slowly as the first book!). On top of that, my day job has me incredibly busy these days. So I’d love to set a date for the next book’s release, but I can’t realistically estimate that right now.
It is late autumn in the 2040th year of the Sixth Era. For centuries, peace has reigned among the tribes of men, but as an early chill descends on the land, a new war looms from the south. Lord Derek, ruler of the Chimaera Regiment, seeks to reestablish the ancient Fylscem Empire under his banner, and he will stop at nothing to restore the dominion of his bloodline.
Before him lies the idyllic Valley of Kyros, home of the Alkimites, where the last direct heir of the old empire lives in ignorance. Guided by the ancient Guardian Lord Aneirin, Hector son of Abram must travel to the primeval capital of his heritage. There, in the Library of the Ancients, he must retrieve the three Blessed Blades of the Emperor, symbols of his authority. Agents of the Chimaera Regiment pursue him, and barbaric tribes stand in his way, but his path may unlock the secrets of the past, and it could bring light—or darkness—to the future.
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On a trade visit to Malta, Orfeo – in line to the throne of Pylos – is kidnapped by mysterious strangers. The net is spread far and wide, with heroes from all over the Aegean joining forces in the quest to find the lost prince.
Is Orfeo in danger, though? His captors seem to have strange motives, what exactly do they see him as? A prince, a prophet, a political pawn, or something more? Only one thing is for certain, nothing is as it appears on the surface, and Orfeo must keep his wits about him. This wonderful work of historical fiction will amaze and engage you in equal measures.
With The Wanderer’s Last Journey, Murray Lee Eiland Jr. has woven an astounding and complex tapestry. It has all the makings of a classic fantasy epic, as the rich and evocative world he creates is as intriguing as it is intricate, whilst the narrative constantly keeps us on our toes. Eiland Jr. clearly has an eye for important details, as his simple use of language is restrained and mannered. He writes much like any of the great classical fantasy writers, with simplistic, well-constructed sentences forming the framework for a complex and sprawling narrative. Where he does choose to go into detailed description, he paints for us a clear and colourful picture. The milieu of The Wanderer’s Last Journey, whilst mostly serving as a stage on which to set the players, is perhaps one if the novel’s most astonishing features. This mythical, magical Mediterranean is exotic and enticing, and we are left wanting to learn more about it. As the story expands and speeds towards its thrilling crescendo, its setting is left unexpanded, and one wonder’s whether the novel might have benefited from going into greater detail in this regard. In many ways it is unfamiliar from the Ancient Greece we know and are familiar with, yet it verges upon Virgil and Homer. The Iliad is an obvious reference, and Eiland Jr.’s love of this period is clear on the page.
This novel sets Eiland Jr out as an author of great scope and intention, however one who isn’t afraid to create a world of great depth and complexities. He cleverly weaves multiple storylines and, for the most part, manages to keep on top of this, and keeps all the strands of his stories working together. There are moments, though, where the machinations of the plot seem to get the better of him. The action tends to flit between one character’s perspective and another’s, and whilst this serves to provide us with a huge wealth of storyline, it occasionally distracts from it. It also means, at points, that we aren’t given long enough in each character’s story to form an emotional bond with them, and we are left wondering who exactly our protagonist is. This is perhaps to be expected, though, with a story so vast, and one with so many strands, and for the most part The Wanderer’s Last Journey works well as a rich, entertaining fantasy epic.
Pages: 237 | ASIN: B018RHOIRI
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